Expect a Huge Holiday Quarter From Apple, Inc.

While Amazon.com often gets a lot of attention during the Black Friday shopping weekend, there's another giant company that seems to be firing on all cylinders: Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL). One analyst at research and investment banking boutique Rosenblatt believes the tech giant not only sold lots of iPhone X units over the important shopping weekend, but also saw nearly twice the demand for its higher-priced 256 GB model than its 64 GB model.

Here's a look at the analyst's predictions -- and why Apple looks poised to have a huge holiday quarter.

iPhone X sales

Rosenblatt analyst Jun Zhang, who has a $180 price target on Apple stock, said he believes Apple sold 6 million iPhone X units during the Black Friday shopping weekend alone. That brings total iPhone X shipments so far to 15 million, he estimates.

Given that iPhone X deliveries are supply constrained, a trend like this puts the spotlight on the flagship smartphone's improving production. Indeed, Zhang estimates (via StreetInsider.com) that weekly iPhone X production recently increased to 3 million units and could reach 4 million per week in December. Looking to the full first quarter of 2018 (the fourth calendar quarter of 2017), Zhang believes Apple could ship 30 million iPhone X units during the period.

Perhaps more important than Zhang's forecast for iPhone X unit shipments is his forecast for how popular the 256 GB $1,150 version is compared to the 64 GB $1,000 version. He said the version with a higher storage tier appears to be about twice as popular as the 64 GB version. Given that the base version of the iPhone X is already pricier than the base version of both Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus last year, this trend could significantly improve average selling prices and help the tech giant's profit margin. And since iPhones represent well over half of Apple's sales and an even larger portion of its gross profit, positive catalysts for the iPhone's gross profit margin can have a meaningful impact on Apple's overall profitability.

Apple is poised for a record quarter

Zhang's bullish forecasts for the quarter only confirm what is already apparent: Apple looks poised for a record holiday quarter.

The first concrete evidence that Apple's recent return to growth was likely to continue into the company's fiscal first quarter of 2018 surfaced when management provided guidance for the quarter. Apple said it expected first-quarter revenue between $84 billion and $87 billion,up about 9% compared with Apple's record first fiscal quarter of 2017.

Investors should take Apple's guidance for its holiday quarter seriously. Not only does Apple's guidance typically prove to be conservative, but the guidance was provided more than a month into the quarter -- so management had significant visibility into its performance for the period.

Another reason investors should expect a big holiday quarter from Apple is the company's improving shipping times for the iPhone X. Customers in the U.S. who order today can pick up some versions immediately in stores and can have them shipped and delivered nearly a week before Christmas. If Apple's iPhone X production times continue to improve, most U.S. customers who want an iPhone X before Christmas will probably be able to get one.

Considering Zhang's bullish update on iPhone X production and sales, management's big guidance, and improving shipping times for the important smartphone, Apple's iPhone segment should help the tech giant set new revenue and profit records in its fiscal first quarter.

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